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7 Need to Know Tips for Home Decorating on a Budget

Meet Mel B! She is our first guest blogger! She is a self diagnosed perfectionist, head over heels for the little boy who stole her heart and calls her mom, and obsessed with all things personal growth. On her blog she talks about things like productivity, mindsets, and lifestyle. She shares her tips and tricks for embracing the everyday moments, focusing on progress not perfection, and loving your life along the way! Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to keep up with new posts. You can follow her blog here as well. Check out her post below to learn about her tips for decorating on a budget!

Mel B.

By: Mel B.

After spending YEARS waiting for the day I’d have my own home and get to put my own personal touch into decorating it, the day finally arrived! Last summer, my husband and I purchased our first home, and after a few short months of renovations (that felt like an eternity) my husband gave me the OK to start decorating!

And ya know what I did?! NOTHING. I. did. nothing….

Why, you ask? Because I’d built up this grand idea in my head about what I wanted my home to look like, and how to decorate it. But when the time came, there was one thing standing in my way…

I wanted that Pinterest perfect home, but I didn’t have $$$ to afford it. Because I couldn’t afford to buy #allthethings required for my dream home, I was left with some hard choices to make. Choices like, “do I buy the rug and pretend the bare walls were all part of my minimalist style?” or “should I get the dining room table and chairs, and forgo office furniture since we could do that on the kitchen table anyway”?

My excitement soon turned to dread. I’d never have that Instagram-worthy décor. How could I, if I couldn’t afford to buy all the nice things that made up those beautiful homes? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. If you’ve ever started to decorate your home only to give up in the middle, (or close to the beginning if you’re like me) fear not, the story doesn’t have to end there!

After much trial and error while decorating my home (and it’s still a work in progress), I’ve come up with a few ways to get out of my home décor blues and actually create a look I love on the cheap!

7 Tips for decorating on a budget:

1. Don’t Be Too Picky

One of the mistakes I made when using Pinterest as inspiration was thinking that for my house to look good, everything had to be new. There couldn’t be a scratch, dent, smudge, or chip on any of my things. Otherwise, my house would look like the less desirable “nailed it” image…you know the one?

But, once you have a few things in your home, all the little imperfections don’t stand out nearly as much as you imagined they would.

The very first thing I bought to decorate my new home was a set of beat-up wooden file cabinets that I planned on refinishing for my son’s nursery. I was about 6 or 7 months pregnant at the time, so those nesting hormones were in full swing! I spent HOURS painting, sanding, re-paint, and re-sanding those shelves. After the 3rd coat, my husband came home to a crying pregnant lady on the dining room floor (don’t judge…hormones do crazy things to the best of us) because after all that work they still weren’t perfect!

Refinished wooden file cabinet.

I hated everything about those shelves. How uneven the paint was, how splotchy the stain looked, and how chipped the tops were. But you know what? I don’t even notice them now! They turned out fine, and no one knows about the little imperfections I couldn’t seem to see past.

When we’re first starting to decorate our homes it’s easy to put a lot of pressure or expectation on the first few pieces we buy. Since those are the only things in the house, if they aren’t perfect it can feel like just their presence is enough to make the room look cheap and thrown together. But don’t lose heart and quit there. Once you have a couple more pieces, you won’t feel like those imperfections are staring you in the face every time you walk into the room.

Besides, a lot of new pieces are actually made to look worn. I wasn’t a huge fan of that look at first because I thought it was too “rustic” looking. But even modern rooms done right can look great with a few pieces that are worn or faded.

2. Use What You Have

Another thing I did when decorating my new home was pick out a Pinterest image I wanted to copy, and try to change my rooms to match that image exactly. When you’re on a budget though, you may not be able to afford to replace everything you already have that doesn’t match the “look” exactly.

For example, I was given a used crib and changing table set to use for my soon to arrive little man. They were a little older, and had that slightly red oak finish. I was extremely thankful for the gift, but I HATED that red tint to the wood. It didn’t match anything I had in mind for my nursery, so I jumped right into researching how to paint it. To make a long story short, after another terrible painting experience, I was left with one white changing table (that had drip marks everywhere!), and one untouched red oak crib.

After swearing I’d never touch a paint brush again, I got BACK on Pinterest to search for how to decorate my room with a red oak crib. And guess what I found?! Tons of décor ideas that I actually LOVED, with red oak cribs! In fact, I liked them so much I even wished I hadn’t painted the changing table. If I’d just found inspiration from what I had rather than trying to change everything, I would have been able to make a really cute nursery without all the anxiety painting the changing table caused.

The magic of Pinterest is that you can find the most beautiful images and ideas for just about EVERYTHING! So, if there’s something in your home you aren’t able to update or replace, use that piece to really help shape the direction your décor is going. There’s so many way’s you can take a dated piece of furniture or rug and make it more on trend.

3. Second Hand Isn’t All Bad

This somewhat ties into the first point. Not everything in your home needs to be brand new! In fact, most of my furniture is either refurbished, or bought off of Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically Facebook’s version of Craigslist.

Now, I gotta tell ya, I was NOT a fan of repurchased goods at first. I had this idea in my head that everything that comes from another person’s home is dirty and damaged. But when you get rid of thing’s is it always because it’s ruined? Cause if you’re like me, some time’s you just need something different or new. Which is exactly what most other people do too. So, don’t be afraid to search for used pieces of furniture! Yes, there’s the occasional person trying to sell a 70 year old dresser for 5x its worth. For the most part though, you can find some gently used and cute things second hand that are perfect for your up and coming home décor.

When shopping second hand, especially on the marketplace or Craigslist, make sure you know exactly what you want so that you don’t just buy something out of obligation or convenience. Because impulse buys can leave you feeling good at first, only to get home and realize it isn’t what you were looking for after all.

If you have a clear idea of what you want, it makes turning down someone’s used item much easier. You don’t have to try and come up with an excuse or need a reason to pull out. You can just tell them, “Sorry, I’m looking for something more like _______. But thank you for your time.” I turned down a couple couches before I found the one I wanted because they didn’t have the right arm rests, colors, or cushions I was looking for. Eventually I did find the perfect one, and I was glad I waited to find it.

The perfect couch!

Another reason I love shopping second hand is because I know the second I bring something home there’s a 100% chance my husband or son is going to kick it, spill something on it, or knock it over. So, buying second hand eliminates that sinking feeling you get when something brand new gets its first battle scar. Because you know it’s already had a few kicks and dents and you didn’t pay full price for it, you’re less likely to get upset when it loses its value 5 minutes after getting it through the front door.

4. Recreate the “Look”

If you haven’t already learned the power of a can of spray paint, let me tell ya, its life changing! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something and thought it looked super professional only to find out it was a thrifted item generously doused in a popular color of spray paint.

Here’s an example of a second-hand table I found that looked pretty rough until I had updated it a bit with a little color. Wanna know how much it was? I got the table for a whopping $3 and the paint was round $5. You can’t beat an $8 end table! Plus, very little work went into prepping the table for paint. I wiped it down a little with a wet rag, did a few strokes with some sand paper and that’s it!

Second hand table before it was refinished.
The finished table with a fresh coat of paint.

Another cool thing my husband and I did in our recently refinished kitchen was painting the backsplash. At first glance it looks like tile, right? But if you look a little closer, its actually just paint. Some well placed tape and a couple coats of paint and it’s the cheapest backsplash you’ve ever seen! But still gives it that expensive look.

Kitchen backsplash that looks like tile but is actually paint!
A closer look at the painted backsplash.

The best part about refinishing your pieces is not having to spend time overthinking the color or items you choose. I can’t tell you how many hours I’d spend in a store trying to decide if I REALLY wanted an item or if it would look ridiculous once I got it home, because I was afraid of wasting money on something that wasn’t perfect. But, when you refinish something (like my yellow table) if you want to take a gamble on a bright color you can! If you hate it, just spend $5 to get a new color and start over!

For more furniture refinishing ideas check out Amanda and Kristen’s buffet, china hutch and desk turned into a T.V. stand.

5. Invest in Big Pieces

One of the best things I did for sprucing up my very empty, very plain room was purchasing a rug. It changed EVERYTHING! The best thing about adding the rug was that it covered so much space, even with empty walls and shelves the room still looked much more styled.

Although it’s easy to want to spend what money you have on a fancy clock or nice vases, if you’re tight on cash try investing in the big pieces that draw the eye. Once you have a focal point in the room, it’s easy to find small pieces at thrift stores or on sale racks that will fill in the shelves and cover the walls.

When I first started trying to decorate my home, I got so hung up on everything being exactly like the picture inspiration or the idea in my head. I’d find something similar that was really affordable, but hold off buying it because I was waiting to find the perfect piece. But when you’re buying things on a budget, sometimes that perfect piece never shows up or is just a little too pricey. So my rooms would sit, looking bare for much longer than I’d like to admit because I didn’t want to waste money on the wrong pieces.

If you think about all your home décor pins saved on Pinterest, though could you describe every item in detail? I definitely couldn’t. I could probably tell you the color of the couch, the pattern on the rug, or the overall color scheme. So, figure out what one item would really capture the look you want and invest in that first. Then shape the room around that piece.

Big items make or break a room, so invest in your big items to get exactly the look you’re wanting, and fill in the rest of your room with small items that may not be exactly what you want but that get the job done. Eventually, as you slowly start to improve your décor game, you can trade out the small cheap items for nicer ones. But in the beginning, you’ll want a complete look over a perfect one.

6. Combine Function with Style

One of the things that is easy to fall into when decorating a room is buying things just because they look pretty. I can’t tell you how many trays, bowls, vases, and figurines I’ve bought over the years because they all looked so good in the moment! But now, they just sit on a shelf waiting to be pushed aside to make room for that day’s cup of coffee or pile of mail.

These types of purchases are the one’s you want to stay far away from when decorating on a budget. They may be fine for the well-established home decorator, but not for anyone just starting out. Because before you know it, you’re looking at a wall perfectly decorated with clocks, picture frames, candles, etc and on the other side of the room is a bare wall, a TV sitting on the floor, and folding chairs for furniture. (true story)

Instead of investing in items that just take up space, try investing in pieces with function as well as style. You may LOVE the ladder blanket shelf, but it doesn’t have much functionality to it. So instead, invest in a basket that can store blankets AND double as a coffee table.

Keep in mind when purchasing these items that eventually you will be able to buy more items for your home, like the cute blanket ladder. So, you’ll want to make sure that when you’re searching for function and style you’re still buying items that will go well with your theme or look. That way the items you have will still fit in nicely with any new items you purchase.

7. Put Things Out Right Away

This one’s for those of us who buy things with grand DIY’s in mind, or who tell themselves “That’s too cute to pass up, I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it”, and put it in a box somewhere waiting for that perfect spot to magically appear. There’s two ways this tip really helps the home decorator on a budget.

The first is that it will keep you from buying multiple items for the same thing. I’ve spent more money than I’m willing to admit on pieces that made it into a storage box somewhere, only to be thrown into my garage sale a year or two later. Not because I didn’t like it, but because after forgetting where I’d put it I bought something identical or extremely similar.

The second reason this tip helps you save money, is because it curbs those impulse buys. If you see something you just HAVE to have in your home, but can’t think of where you’ll put it or what you’ll do with it; it’s probably an impulse buy. It looks super cute at the store, and you want so desperately to have that Joanna Gaines home that you toss it in the cart hoping that one piece will instantly transform your room. But honestly, if you can’t think of where you’ll put it or how you’ll style it now, you probably never will.

So, when you’re first starting out, putting each little piece you purchase out may seem a little…minimal…to say the least, but eventually you’ll start to see what needs to be filled in and what is good the way it is. It will give you direction in your purchases instead of aimlessly searching store shelves and buying a bunch of pieces that end up sending your current pieces to the garage sale bin.

Let’s Recap!

If you skimmed to the bottom of this post, no worries, I do that too! Here’s the main takeaway’s you’ll want to get from this post for your next remodeling adventure.

  1. Don’t Be Too Picky: A few bumps and scratches aren’t going to instantly turn your home décor into a hot mess. Most of what stands out to you won’t be noticed by anyone else.
  2. Use What You Have: Don’t spend money on things you already have just because you think their dated or “not your style”. Search Pinterest for ways to style those items, and you’ll be surprised how stylish and modern older pieces can be.
  3. Second Hand Isn’t All Bad: We all have the impression of dirty, broke, and ruined furniture on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but there ARE some good pieces out there. Don’t be afraid to search for them!
  4. Recreate the “Look”: You can use creative ways to get the look you want without paying for the high cost materials. For example, paint a tile pattern on your backsplash to make it look more expensive than it actually is.
  5. Invest in Big Pieces: Big pieces make or break a room. Invest in ones that really embody the look you’re going for, and fill in the rest of the room with small cheap pieces that you can eventually replace with more quality ones later on.
  6. Combine Function with Style: If you’re strapped for cash, invest in pieces that have multiple purposes like a basket that holds blankets AND can be used as a coffee table or end table. These pieces are staple room décor, but can be used in multiple different ways and in multiple different rooms.
  7. Put Things Out Right Away: Don’t fall into the trap of buying things you don’t have a place for “yet”. Either those pieces get stored and forgotten about, or you end up realizing later that you really don’t have a place for them, they were just an impulse buy.

Well, that’s it! I don’t have the most fashionable home, or the most decorated. But I’m getting there! And the first step is always the hardest. So those are my 7 tips every new homeowner should know when starting to decorate!

I hope you enjoyed learning from my experiences and that I was able to help you find ways to get the look without the expense!

What do you think? Were these tips helpful? Did you catch yourself nodding in agreement with any of them? Or have you had your own experience with home décor and found some tips or tricks that I didn’t mention? Tell us all about it in the comments below! We’d love to hear your thoughts!


3 thoughts on “7 Need to Know Tips for Home Decorating on a Budget”

  1. This is GREAT! I especially loved points 3, 6, and 7 😀
    I’m a thriftaholic and buy way to much!! So these tips were super helpful. I just picked up a lidded basket the other day and never thought to use it as a table until reading your tips!!

    1. We are so glad you found Mel’s tips helpful and enjoyed her guest post! We loved her ideas as well and can’t wait to put some of them into practice! 🙂

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